Industrial Facilities Turn To HDS

High-definition surveys bring the digital age to site planning, facility upgrades.
By Mike Hoffman | June 11, 2014

In the past, the conventional, manual surveying of industrial sites for retrofits or facility expansion often required hundreds of hours, sometimes over months, and occasionally involved potentially hazardous locations. When as-built infrastructures were hidden or not precisely detailed in original plans, the resulting survey errors usually led to expensive rework or change orders for retrofit or expansion projects.

Today, high-definition survey technology (HDS) makes it possible for data to be collected from hundreds of survey points, with densities and accuracies of one-eighth inch, in a matter of hours, instead of days or weeks. Provided by professional specialists, HDS can be used to survey a plethora of industrial projects such as processing plants, refineries and mining operations that plan to make modifications, retrofit, expand or upgrade key equipment. 

HDS technology is based on an imaging laser that collects up to 50,000 survey shots per second, making it far easier to provide data that can be used for 2-D line work or 3-D models.
The HDS system also features an external camera that collects photographic images in 360-degree, RGB color values. These image files are later fused to the data points that are assembled as “point clouds,” which can then be utilized for site mapping, project planning, and civil, structural and mechanical/electrical/plumbing design as data is extracted into formats such as AutoCAD, Revit and MicroStation.

Savings, Efficiencies
Stan Postma is vice president of Utah-based engineering services firm, MWH Americas Inc. (a subsidiary of MWH Global). His organization recently undertook the renovation of an industrial facility operated by the city of Logan, in northern Utah. “We needed to evaluate some existing structures, including a powerhouse that is about 100 years old,” Postma explains. “I knew about HDS type of scanning, and thought it would be a good application for the project. HDS captured all of the information about the building in a very quick and efficient manner, enabling us to plan around the existing structure with very accurate information.”

Postma says that the city of Logan also commissioned MWH to survey an existing dam that is going through some design modifications near the powerhouse site. He says the 3-D data the HDS system provided was very helpful in planning that project as well. According to Postma, this data enabled his staff to put the dam in a 3-D animation so they could view it from any angle. This was a very useful tool because it provided a precise reference, and eliminated the need to send personnel to the site for visual confirmations. “We’re going to end up with savings on change orders and construction efficiencies all around,” Postma concludes. “Having all the information available in such great detail is going to save money. HDS scanning is very cost-efficient tool.”

Many design and engineering firms turn to HDS technology because the scans it provides are so accurate that it virtually removes the need to work from records that could be somewhat inaccurate, thereby eliminating the need for rework. Because all scanning is performed from ground level, HDS scanning technology is unobtrusive, making it unnecessary to interrupt production processes.
This convenience also adds a measure of safety, says Brian Akers, piping lead at Job Industrial Services Inc., which handles retrofit and expansion projects for a variety of industrial facilities throughout the U.S. “HDS technology improves on the safety of our personnel, because we spend significantly less field time in potentially dangerous environments,” Akers explains. “This is the case particularly in the refinery industry, where you may have thousands of miles of infrastructure. If we’re doing a retrofit, we can have a service provide laser scans, and with the point cloud information, we can do a model a lot more accurately than we can do with conventional field measurements.”

Job Industrial Services asked McNeil Engineering to perform HDS scanning at a recent refinery project, because the team possessed the necessary state-required training certification and other safety-related qualifications. “That removes the need for our organization to invest in HDS equipment, create a scanning team, and then send them out to the job sites,” Akers explains. “All that saves us capital and the loss of considerable production time at the office end.”

Author: Mike Hoffman
McNeil Engineering
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